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Underdogs

We have so much working in our favor and those are the things we focus on. Optimism, after all, is an invaluable competency for anyone trying to turn a new idea into a company. Sometimes, however, we can’t ignore the reality that we are swimming against the current.

Grocery stores are packed with big national brands. Next time you’re walking down the snack aisle try to spot a local brand, or even a brand that is only sold at that store. You’re probably not going to find either. It’s less like, say, iTunes and a lot more like the Top 40. We all enjoy familiarity, but that’s not what’s driving this lack of diversity. There is a reason, and it’s not the grocers fault.

Packaged food is an industry based on scale. How about an example: Kettle Foods makes incredibly good chips. Every month they sell roughly 10 million bags of those chips (a couple go in our cart).  That’s a few hundred times more than the popcorn boxes that we make/sell per month. Ten times is a huge different, a few hundred times is nuts. The difference between us is roughly equal to the difference between my height and the height of the Empire State Building. No joke.

Scale is one of our fundamental challenges. All of the other products on the shelf in our aisle enjoy the benefits that come with making a whole lot of something. This allows them to negotiate and contract rates for core ingredients like corn. The team and equipment used to make their product are dialed in, and running around the clock. Suppliers fight for their business. When they order ingredients, they order rail cars full. They are in a different league.

We beg suppliers. As much as we have grown, we are still nowhere near a priority. When we get a deal it’s because of a good relationship and basic kindness. Most of the time, however, the inefficiency of being small means things take longer and cost more.

We don’t lust for brag worthy sales figures. We don’t daydream about being a ginormous company. We are learning, however, that it’s all but impossible to be small and live on the mainstream grocery store shelf. The products sitting to the left and right of our box were bred in an ultra competitive landscape where price is a key evolutionary force. This is the reason grocery shelves are all packed with the same products made by the same few giant brands. Consumers expect the price that scale allows.

We are outgunned in every measurable way.  The thing is, this is just the crux of starting a food company. It’s a tough test, but it’s also our training ground. To grow now is a prelude to thriving once the playing field is level. Moving forward must mean we are making good stuff!

So, you will pay more when you choose to buy something from an interesting independent brand, but you are also reshaping the landscape of our food system.

COMMENTS

  1. Doug Campbell wrote:

    Paying more is OK with me… if I’m getting something superior to the other products on the shelve. I am with Quinn Popcorn! Keep up the good fight.

  2. Erin Douglass wrote:

    I’m with Doug! Happy to pay more to support small independent awesome business. And your product is really well thought out, good for the planet and good for the consumer!

  3. Limor S. wrote:

    Keep up the great work! Consumers are willing to pay more for specialty food products that are organic, kind to the earth, and have chemical free packaging. More importantly, its simply delicious!!
    Would love to see snack packs for the kiddos :)))

  4. El wrote:

    I had my local natural food store here in Santa Cruz on board and they even called me to tell me they had Quinns coming in within a few days. When a few weeks went by without it on the shelves they said their supplier couldn’t carry it. I don’t mind ordering from you online and paying more but I sure would love to be able to go around the corner and buy it when I’m craving popcorn…or especially be able to have friends and acquaintances I recommend the product to be able to see it and buy it themselves.

  5. Coulter wrote:

    Shoot! Would you mind passing on the name of the store. I’m sure there is a way we can work together! Thanks for the support El!

  6. Kim H. wrote:

    Couldn’t agree more. The benefit of “voting our dollars” on local brands is that by doing so we support “our” community. Real people whose voice is heard above the din of the all-too-familiar. And there are those of us to whom the price point is irrelevant when it comes to a quality, well thought out product. Quinn represents such a product. It’s very existence educates us about the agribusiness empires, and our old ways of trusting and thinking about the food chain.

    The existence of Quinn addresses my need to embrace the change that will hopefully – in turn – ripple upstream to the food giants and shake them to their senses. But I am an “early adapter” in marketing parlance….one who jumps in at the bottom of the curve before you go asymptotic and head for the stars.

    I think the challenge for Quinn is an educational one, where you grab the heart of the consumer by letting them know you are looking out for their health by providing nutrition in a delivery system that is safe. All the way safe. Loyalty is from trust. We need to unhook the trust we have with the mothership of agribusiness, and reestablish that trust with the little “David’s” out there who are whacking away at the giant….

    Best of luck!

  7. Try whole food market? wrote:

    Whole Food Market is usually open to negotiating with small organic businesses. Have you tried them?
    Your popcorn is AWESOME by the way.

  8. Phyllis Kelley wrote:

    My family loves your popcorn! We’ve only seen 2 flavors here in Virginia – Vermont Maple and Lemon with Sea Salt. When I found out that Bed, Bath, and Beyond was carrying it – HAPPY:)

  9. Karla W wrote:

    Please tell me your product will be carried in The Fresh Market out of North Carolina, it is my home store which I miss dearly..but I recently found out they are coming to Dallas, TX. I can’t think of two things that would make my foodie day, week, month and year than Quinn’s and The Fresh Market!

COMMENT